Communications Project

Document Type:Master's Thesis
Name:Elda Maria Silva
Title:Women's empowerment in informal settlements of the Peruvian Amazon frontier. A case study of 9 de Octubre, Pucallpa-Peru
Degree:Master of Science
Department:Urban Affairs and Planning
Committee Chair: John O. Browder
Committee Members:Judith Mayer
Sarah Hamilton
Keywords:Urbanization,Peruvian Amazon,social mobilization,women's development organizations,community development
Date of defense:April 8,1998
Availability:Release the entire work for Virginia Tech access only.
After one year release worldwide only with written permission of the student and the advisory committee chair.


Women's organizations in informal settlements located in peri-urban areas of Peruvian Amazon cities have been carrying out programs for solving nutrition, food, health, and income generation problems in their communities. This is a way of women's local action of self-help and self-reliance to transform their marginalized ways of living. This study focuses on two factors in the scope of women's organizations: (1) to examine what causes household participation in women's organizations. (2) To explore what type of women's empowerment leads to social development, assuming that women go through a process of empowerment as a result of their participation in women's organizations. The study data consists of a case study in one informal settlement in Pucallpa, 9 de Octubre, and key-informant interviews of women participating in women's organizations, and life histories of four women leaders. The quantitative analysis focuses on three hypotheses: (1) Single women-headed households participate more frequently in women's organizations than men-headed households. (2) Households with children under six years old are more likely to participate in women's organizations than households without. (3) Households in remote locations of the informal settlement are more likely to participate in women's organizations. The qualitative analysis focuses in three areas: (1) women's roles as community managers, (2) women's organizations as agents to produce structural change and (3) the relationship between women's organizations and women's empowerment. Findings cast doubt upon the first hypothesis by showing that single women-headed households were not economically vulnerable as it was expected and that their participation in women's organizations was not as frequent as the participation of men-headed households. Furthermore, men-headed households seem to benefit more from women's organizations than single women-headed households. The presence of children does not predict participation in women's organizations. Also, it is interesting that households in more remote and inaccessible locations seem to participate more in women's organizations. The study develops the argument that women's organizations, which bring in knowledge and more than partial problem-solving solutions, contribute to women's empowerment and household change that lead to social development. The study concludes that the types of empowerment that lead to social development are the cultural, and social because they are the ones that are more effective in bringing changes at the household and community levels. However, the economic empowerment should not be disregarded and should be considered in the formula because it provides one of the prime needs of urban poor women: income in their household.

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